New home, new name

Hello my beloved readers of Everything and A Racehorse!

The time has come. After some number of years (I’m too lazy to count), I’ve decided to change the title of this blog and move it over to another platform. You can read about that decision here, if you’d like.

I’m now writing at Square Peg Round Hole, hosted by Substack, a new online publishing platform that is email-based and full of wonderful writers that I could only hope to emulate someday.

If you’ve been kind enough to follow me here, I hope you’ll consider subscribing on Substack. Anytime I post, you’ll get an email in your inbox, and that’s the entire gist of it. Simple and easy.

Thank you for reading, liking and commenting over the years. I am always amazed and humbled that people actually read my words, and I’m grateful. I hope to see you over on Square Peg Round Hole!

Just 11 days to go

I was so glad to say goodbye to January that I turned my calendar over one day early.

Or actually, I thought about doing it, but ruthlessly slapped my hand away from the pushpin because by god, we don’t break those rules in this house. Not sure when we became so strict about such things, but, management, you know how it is.

Anyway, I did flip the calendar on February 1 (to a lovely picture of Lake Mead you can see in the header of this post) and said adieu to an altogether lousy January. When you combine a mob storming the capitol, the longest 3 weeks before an inauguration ever, and some lousy personal stuff (sorry to be vague, but it doesn’t need to be shared here), it was a bummer of a month. So, I was happy to bid it goodbye.

And then. AND THEN.

Bouquets of roses started showing up in the ads that chase me around the internet. Because…it’s February. And Valentine’s Day is coming.

Ugh. Is there any Hallmark holiday less worthy of a “can I opt out?” button than Valentine’s Day?

Some years, I am perfectly happy to enjoy hearing about the gifts and flowers and adventures that couples share. Other times, I want to hurl those gifts right at my computer screen.

This year, I am a mix of feelings. I know, for example, that the flowery hearts of social media don’t always reflect the actual state of a couple’s happiness. So, I find that I hope everyone celebrating the holiday is doing it for real, and not to project domestic bliss when their lives are anything but.

I kinda think I will send some actual Valentines to people who matter, because if there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that real mail still exists and it’s fun to get it. Plus, I bought Valentines last year and forgot to send them. So in that way, I sort of of have the spirit.

But I also want to just reach out and hug every single person who is going through these hard times solo. And they are hard. Even if you’re safe, healthy, employed and have a roof over your head…and few of us are all of those things…it’s tough to be doing this alone right now.

I try not to make sweeping generalizations of anyone’s life based on my own. But, I suspect that many of us, who are both pilot and navigator of life, have worked damn hard to build something that works, even in a society that is entirely structured around couples and the nuclear family. It could be the tribe we’ve built, or the travel we take, or the volunteering we choose to do, or a million other things.

But for nearly a year now, those things have been a distant memory. And I, for one, miss them desperately.

There’s an important thing that singles everywhere must learn in order to survive. Alone does not equal lonely.

But lately, I’ve noticed more feelings of loneliness. I feel it in the fact that I am so tired of doing all my chores, day in and day out, by myself, with no one to help. I feel it in how, if I want to talk – actually talk, not text – to another human, I have to do it by phone (shudder), make a plan for a Zoom call (sigh), or arrange a pandemic-approved meetup complete with masks and distance (ugh). I feel it in how much I really really want to get on a plane and go on an adventure – somewhere, anywhere – that will fill my soul tank with pictures and food and good memories.

Most days, I don’t feel the loss of not having someone in my house with me. Most days, I’m grateful to be lord of my own manner, so to speak.

But some days, I would just like someone else to take out the trash or join me while I walk the dog. And yes, I realize relationships are much, much more – and much harder – than such simple things. But still…

So, singles out there – I feel you this Valentine’s Day season. All I can offer is that we only have 11 more days of incessant advertising to get through before we move on to a less fraught Hallmark holiday. Stay strong, hang in there – this too shall pass.

PS: Last year, my dog decided to send me a present for Valentine’s Day (she has a written speech pattern remarkably like my dad) , and while it wasn’t the same as a lover sending roses, it was pretty great. So, if you are reading this and you are not a single, but you know one and have the means…this is your official “hint, hint.” πŸ™‚

5 moments when people didn’t suck

For the past few months I’ve been driving for Amazon Flex. The extra cash has been helpful, and as the daughter of retailers, I’ve found the logistics of the whole thing fascinating. And, I like the idea of helping make maybe this one thing – groceries – easier for people during this crazy time.

As you’d suspect, there are tales of horrors about Flex out there, but I’ve not encountered any of them. Sometimes the system breaks under the strain of overuse, but most of the time, things work smoothly. And sometimes, like tonight, I get a glimpse of people being good to each other.

  1. At the pickup station, all the drivers, masked and bundled up against the rain, held the doors for each other as our carts came in and out.
  2. At my first stop, a lady met me at the door and came out into the rain to haul packages upstairs (usually I do the hauling and leave them at the door). When I said “You have quite a few bags,” the mom replied: “That’s ok. I have the boy helping.” Then she grabbed 4 bags, wouldn’t let me help, and sent me off, admonishing me to stay safe in the rain.
  3. Next stop, the nice young man was waiting for me at the door and must have thanked me 3 times, before telling me to drive carefully and be safe.
  4. Next stop, the moment I pulled up, the door opened (customers can track me on the way to their house). It was raining hard and the lady shouted “Do you need help? We’ll come out!” I told them to stay inside, and on the two trips to their door, I got to meet the loveliest gray pit bull who really, really wanted to say hi. I was so busy sneaking a pet that I almost missed my cash tip. No one ever tips in cash – bonus!
  5. On my final stop, there were 10 heavy bags and the address was on the 4th floor. I’d been dreading this stop the whole trip, and by this point, it was pouring buckets. But someone – I choose to think it was my customer to keep this good human trend going – left the door propped open, and had the courtesy to have the first apartment off the elevator doors, so the drop-off was super easy.

All these nice moments seemed a good balm for a Monday, and I got gentle amusement out of the fact that my go-to hiking gear – waterproof shoes, rain hat, rain coat – turned into the perfect uniform for a rainy night of deliveries. And, I was so busy trying to avoid puddles that I nearly forgot about my hiking-sore calves…except that one time I had to go down the stairs. Yowtch! πŸ™‚

From the yoga mat to the desert

NOTE: Lest you think I live under a rock… I started writing this before we had a mob storm the Capitol. But that has nothing to do with this, so…I decided to finish it.

Back in November of the year-that-shall-not-be-named, I was able to take a trip out to the desert to explore with my friend, Shawn.

There’s a lot embedded in that sentence. Getting there was a gauntlet of last minute planning, patience, and challenges, but the bottom line is that we were able to – SAFELY – meet up and do some exploring. It was my first time on a plane in 9 months. For Shawn, I think it’s not putting words into his mouth to say that the break from his job as a hospital physician was welcome.

With thanks to the ranger we met in Sedona for the word, it was a “glorious” trip. We spent two nights camping in Red Rocks National Recreation Area, which would have been fantastic if it hadn’t been so damn cold. Those two nights changed our camping plans for the rest of the trip; warm, socially-distanced hotels for the win! We roamed around Northern Arizona and Southern Utah – a couple of days in Sedona here, a visit to the Grand Canyon there – that’s how it goes with us.

Anyway, my point in writing this post is to document something good. It’s the fact that, on this trip, I felt as physically strong and capable as I’ve felt in recent years. It’s gonna sound lame, but yoga really does make a difference. πŸ™‚

Back in March, before the pandemic began, I was running long miles as my running team neared the culmination of our training season – Shamrock marathon time. I, of course, was not going to run the half/full marathons, but I’d kept up with some of the longer mileage days to stay with my friends as they trained. I felt good, ready for a year of adventure.

Then it all was cancelled, and we all tried to figure out how to stay active when we didn’t have a goal of a big race upcoming. For me, the big race hasn’t really ever been the goal – the goal has been to simply feel better and be healthier. In September, as our “Pack” trained virtually, we did a week of fitness/strength challenges, and I had a blast with it. I also realized that my strength, mobility and flexibility were/are pretty bad, and that I needed to work on them.

So, for the past few months I’ve been doing more on my mat. Planks/strength stuff, sure, but also yoga.

For me, basic yoga has always been really really hard. I tend to fall over, which makes me laugh, which in turn really messes with the whole breathing thing. My tight hips and general overall inflexibility defy all those so-called “easy” poses like downward dog, and even just sitting on my heels is a challenge.

But in yoga at home, no one can hear you laugh, swear or fart (come on, you know you’ve done it). To my surprise, I’ve kept at it, because, frankly, it makes me feel better. It’s also good for the budding plantar fasciitis in my heel (booo). And, on our trip in November, I saw the fruits of all of it.

Shawn likes rock climbing and scrambling – and he’s good at it. I have, traditionally, done my best, but always struggled. So you can imagine my delight when, on our second day of hiking in Nevada, we found ourselves making our way through “jungle gym” type boulder formations and whatnot…and I was able to do it. Not just get through, but actually have fun, challenge myself, climbing up and over and under and marveling at how my legs were moving and how I could conquer challenges that, just a year ago, I would have despaired at. I do believe at one point, as I threw my leg up onto a ledge and levered myself up with my hands, that I exclaimed aloud “Ha! I am awesome!” Shawn, thankfully, was too far away to hear me, or laughed too quietly for me to hear him.

It felt amazing…and it changed the tenor of the whole trip. Scramble up and down red rocks to get pictures like this? You bet.

Cathedral Rock. Photo by Shawn.

Take on the Hangover Trail, which the ranger said “might be a bit challenging”, but turned out to be a delight of a 9-mile-loop? Totally.

Note: We hiked the loop in the opposite direction from the one described in the link above.

We’d eventually hike up to and around that big formation on the right.

A favorite moment came toward the end of the trip, while out exploring Edmaier’s Secret, a series of wacky brain-like rocks along the route to the more famous Wave formation. See below:

We’d hiked up and around a big mound of these, and found a little bowl to sit in for lunch. To get out, rather than backtracking, Shawn pondered sliding down a little chute-like thing that would take us in another direction. He mused that maybe I wouldn’t want to do it. I told him to try it and I’d see if I could. I watched him, and then without thinking twice I stepped in, folded up myself, shifted weight to brace my hands and feet, and zip…down I went, landing on solid legs with a triumphant whoop.

That’s not to say I didn’t have some moments of shaky ankles as Shawn went flying up a slope and I pondered if I could follow. But that’s what makes it fun, and a challenge. At the end of the week, and since, I’ve enjoyed the idea that, the next time someone asks me to do a “difficult” hike, I likely won’t hesitate. I might not be fast, but I’m starting to believe that my body can do it. And boy, do I have big plans for the next couple of years.

Now excuse me, I need to go work on widening my Warrior stance. It’s easier on a nice flat mat. πŸ™‚

Shawn took this, obviously. πŸ™‚

PS: For those who might be reading this and pondering a trip right now, please know that this trip happened just before coronavirus cases really started to take off. If I was considering the trip right now, I wouldn’t take it. Not just because I don’t want to catch COVID, but because putting myself in risky situations, where, even though I’m being careful, I could still find myself needing medical attention from an exhausted and overworked health care system, isn’t responsible. Please do all you can to stop the spread of the coronavirus so we can all eventually get out and enjoy the world again.

“You’re not going to do that”

Ok peeps. I have some things to say. They are all tumbling through my head and may come out disjointed, but whatever – hopefully they’ll lead to some kind of conclusion worth sharing.

Oh, before I start – a tip! My nutritionist recommended journaling to help me manage all the swirling s#i% in my head, and it’s been super helpful. It keeps me from writing it here, then trying to make the posts less angry/biased, then editing them to toothless nothing, then banishing them to the purgatory of “draft” status. I highly recommend the online journaling thing. I’m using Penzu, FWIW.

Anyway, back to the cascade of thoughts that I want to share with you. I am feeling a little fired up, for a variety of reasons. I will spare you the political reasons, and instead focus on the personal.

First, I just got back from doing kind of a cool thing – I ran a “fast mile”. This was part of a weekly training challenge that my running group puts on. It’s called “Pack Week” – our group is called Pack Training – and no, it has nothing to do with backpacks. It’s a running group.

Side note – “run” is a relative term in my world. Most of what I do is intervals – run/walk, run/walk, etc. But despite the fact that I’m slow and don’t do the long distances of my fellow Pack members, I have joined the team for 3 “seasons” now, and have come to value the structure of the group, and of course, the super nice people – even if they are all obsessed with long mileage in a way that makes ZERO sense to me. πŸ™‚

The “fast mile” was day two of Pack Week – and our challenge was to, simply, run our fastest mile. For those who regularly run many miles at a fast pace this challenge may seem “fun.” After all – running a mile isn’t that hard for those people; they usually run a bunch of them at their speedy pace, and spend their time thinking (I assume) about form and cadence and whatnot. For runners like me, who struggle to finish a mile in 13:30, and spend that time thinking about a) just breathing and b) trying not to die, a fast mile is more challenging. The recommended “warmup” of 1.5 miles is hard enough – and then, to run “fast” after that? Yikes.

I knew I wasn’t going to be fast, but I was really looking forward to this challenge for some unfathomable reason. Even in the rain. So, I headed out. I did my best to warm up as instructed without tiring myself out, and I have to admit, my legs felt pretty good. Then, I started my “fast” run.

I ran straight through for a quarter mile, which is unusual for me. I was on a 12 minute mile pace. That’s much faster than I normally do, so that became my goal. Turns out I couldn’t quite sustain it, so I had to take a walk break occasionally, and then I had to race myself at the end – I might have yelled “come on!” as I sprinted through the last five seconds and .01 – but by gosh, I finished at EXACTLY 12 minutes.

That’s likely one of the slower times in the Pack.

But here’s the thing – I really don’t give a damn about that. I mean, I’ll use it to poke fun at myself, but the bottom line is that I’m proud of myself for running a whole two minutes faster than I normally do. It was HARD, it sucked mightily in the moment, and yes, I gasped for air like a landed fish when it was over. But I was out there, in the rain, getting it done…and the only goal I needed to worry about was my own. Running a 7 minute mile is beyond my capability, but running a 12 minute mile isn’t. So…that’s what I did.

Two nights ago, I was chatting with my dad, and mentioned that I plan to, someday, hike into and out of the Grand Canyon. My dad looked at me like I was crazy. “Nah,” he said skeptically. “You’re not going to do that.”

I’m not sure if he meant “You aren’t capable of doing that” or “I’d rather you not do that”, but regardless…it was clear he doubted me. Either that or the idea of someone actually wanting to hike a mile down into a canyon, and then back out, seemed a little nutso. On that point, he’s not entirely wrong.

But in all seriousness, 10 years ago, such doubt would have crushed me. It’s a testament to how far I’ve come that I took it as a challenge, and tried to explain to him that yes, indeed, I can do that, and that I most definitely will, someday. Perhaps not tomorrow, and certainly not before training, but I will. It’s a goal that is entirely within my reach…and I might not have believed that 10 years ago, either. But now I do.

My dad remained skeptical, but eventually said “well, make sure you tell me when you go so I can take out some life insurance on you.”

Other people have written, better than I can, about overcoming challenges, and about how our greatest enemy is often ourselves. You might be tempted to cast my dad as a bad guy in the story I just told, but I don’t see it that way. He has an opinion, and I happen to know it’s not a correct one (Sorry, Dad!). πŸ™‚ So there’s no reason to let it bother me. Our greatest enemy may be our own reaction to someone doubting us – how do we respond when they express skepticism?

I can’t help think that a simple answer may be the most appropriate.

I think the best answer might be…just watch me.